The former No.3 AFL draft pick had his best season yet in 2022, kicking 29 goals as the Suns compiled the strongest campaign of their history.
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But Rankine has opted out of their future after going back and forth over offers that were up to $150,000 apart on annual wage.
While the trade request has not blindsided Gold Coast it did set off a wave of disappointment that they will not see the benefits of their early investment in his career.
Chairman Tony Cochrane even agreed it felt like he had been ‘kicked in the guts’.
“Incredibly disappointing because there’s so many people around our club that gave Izak an awful lot of time,” he told Sportsday on Thursday.
“I recall his first year when they discovered that he had a bit of an arthritic hip issue, pelvic area issue, the time and trouble we went to medically to try and get to the bottom of that and get him sorted for life, not just for footy, and he didn’t play in that first year. It goes right back to those days.
“(Senior coach) Stuey Dew has put in a phenomenal amount of time with this kid, Stuey’s been like a second dad to him. He’s helped him in so many ways, get around and get involved, and he’s also helped him enormously with his football.
“There’s a lot of very disappointed people up here and I know a lot of his playing mates felt they were all in this together and they felt that he was in this with them and go forward with them.
“There you go. Money talks, huh … it’s sport all over the world now, somebody else with a bigger wallet comes along and makes it pretty hard.”
Rankine’s decision followed an honest meeting between the young gun and Suns leaders Touk Miller, Sean Lemmens, Jarrod Witts and David Swallow.
The four Gold Coast veterans pulled out all the stops in a bid to avoid seeing Rankine join a long list of departures, including Tom Lynch, Steven May, Dion Prestia, Charlie Dixon, Adam Saad, Jack Martin and Jaeger O’Meara.
Just as Cochrane said he felt Rankine owed the club, Miller revealed that view was shared with the in-demand star.
“I’ll be honest, it is disappointing. We felt like Izak, we put a lot of time into him,” the captain said at the AFL Awards night.
“For the player that he is and going to become, I feel like we had a massive hand in that and trying to create that and surround him with a culture where he can thrive and he can relish.
“He’s really just started to give us the goods towards the end (of the season) there. I’ll be honest it does hurt, it is disappointing. We did try our best to keep him.
“We literally just gave him our honest opinion and how we felt and why we felt with where his spot was in our club and how important he was to us succeeding and how much of a loss it is if he doesn’t play for us.”
Speaking on SEN the following day, Miller added: “I know these things happen in footy. For us it just probably stung that little bit more because we felt like we’ve given him a lot and were waiting to reap the rewards of that.”
Crows’ offer sparks great debate
Rankine’s arrival in Adelaide will follow Jordan Dawson’s move from the Sydney Swans to the Crows last year, with the club suddenly confident it can continue to lure South Australian talent home.
“(Rankine is) a highly talented player. I just make the point – Jordan Dawson last year, Rankine this year – Adelaide, destination club,” club president John Olsen said.
But Rankine’s looming status as one of the highest earners at the Crows, if not the No.1, has rankled some in the AFL community.
Footy legend Wayne Carey, who played for the club in 2003 and 2004, said the $800,000 offer moved Adelaide into dangerous territory.
“You know what I found astounding? The Adelaide Crows had some superstars, the McLeods, the Ricciutos, the Goodwins, the Edwards, Ben Hart, they had some absolute guns at this footy club,” the 7AFL commentator said on Triple M.
“But there was a pecking order in how you were paid. That got thrown out the window with (the cap-breaching re-signing of) Kurt Tippett, and Goodwin and a few others at the time weren’t happy because they offered him this other amount.
“This footy club, now, to offer someone like Rankine $800,000 to come in, it goes against everything that they’ve set up.
“I know they’ve done it a couple of times before. But this is completely throwing everything they’ve done for a very long time – $800,000 a year for a small forward that’s still not proven yet.”
Carey said he did not begrudge the “very talented” Rankine taking the offer and is “rapt for him” but reiterated the club could put themselves in some trouble down the line.
“Grabbing players from other clubs and paying them big amounts and putting them on long contracts, and all of a sudden saying ‘you’re not worth it’,” he warned.
Collingwood premiership player Dale Thomas believes that will not be the case with Rankine.
“He’s probably like a Shai Bolton, with that sort of upside to go through the midfield,” he said.
“In three years’ time, if he becomes one of the best players in the comp, $850,000 is an absolute steal.”
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